My current laptop is slowly expiring and I'd like to get a new one that'll survive fieldwork in Africa - dust in the dry season, humidity in the rainy season. It also needs to be as light as possible, and powerful enough to run word, endnote and SPSS, ideally also some sort of media player to keep me sane. It also needs a very reliable battery that won't get knackered after three months (access to power will be intermittent so I'll be running it on the battery quite a lot). What kind of laptop worked for other people who've been in similar situations?
I'd nearly agree with Hypothesis on this one - surely ya can't be expecting to lug about a laptop in the conditions.
If you do need to record data, why not get either
a. A PDA with voice recognition software - most of them have some form of Windows software that can be then t/ferred to the main PC/laptop back at base
b. A good digital dictaphone - the one I have at present is ace and simple to use
If you use either in conjunction with some formalised means of recording the data, I'd reckon you'd be sorted. I also think that regardless of location, a laptop would would be too cumbersome, especially if doing interview.
If you still need a laptop out in the field, the supervisor has a tiny Asus which utilises OS software and seems robust enough (I think, and I could be corrected here, it runs using the Linux Op. System, which has become more user friendly). It is extremely small but seems to do the job. You may want to get protective covering regardless of what one you choose.
Panasonic toughbook! You can't go wrong with one of those. I do believe they have just updated their designs to come up with thinner, lighter but still durable laptops. I also believe, they are doing a 3 year replacement on them for 21 years - you get a free one every three years. I was tempted I have to say!
I took my Toshiba Tecra laptop on some pretty hardcore fieldwork in the tropics (having a laptop was a neccessity) and it survived fine, even while running off some pretty intermitent and dodgy solar panels (mind you, patops don't particuarly like solar power if thats an issue, i got a few odd static shocks from mine). Still, its 3 and a half years old now, and 2 years since i took it on fieldwork and its on its last legs. My collegue took his sony Vaio and it seemed to be ok also.
Steer well clear of the cheaper Fujistsus....ruggedised laptops are very expensive, and in my experience don't offer that much protection. E.g. if you drop both in the sea, they'll still break! You do get some nice rubber caps for the USB ports etc though.
I think the key here is backups. Any of the main brand laptops will break if you add dust or water into the equation. You could invest in one of the robust ones in a case, but you will pay for it. I would just buy a £400-£500 laptop, look after it, and always keep it in a soft case. I would also back everything up every night, so worst case scenario, you still have your data. If you're exposing your laptop to extreme conditions it is more likely to break, so backup backup, backup!
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